Friday, 29 August 2008

The Swedish Model I: Why the Stockholm underground is so great

During the two years I lived in Sweden I lost count of the number of times ex-pat friends extolled the virtue of Swedish public transport and compared it favourably to its British counterpart.

The Stockholm underground, as every resident and visitor knows, is clean, cool, on time, and runs until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. What is more, one can get a mobile phone signal deep in the underground stations (not surprisingly, one might think).

My friends were right of course. The Stockholm underground is far superior to London’s and it is about to get even better. The reason for this, however, is probably quite the opposite of what they would have guessed. As Fraser Nelson explains:

Stockholm’s privately-run underground is about to go 24 hours, the latest
innovation from Connex (now renamed Veolia). Privatising the underground is seen
as too right wing for Britain , but not Sweden which is perhaps the most
socialistic country in the world... If London Underground ran all night, I
imagine that night time attacks on women would go down dramatically. Ken
Livingstone jacked up black cab fares in the evening so more drivers now work,
but while there are now more taxis on the street few can afford them. Every
night in London , you can see women ushered into the cars of strangers shouting
‘minicab’. If Boris could get London ’s tube running till 3am, never mind 24
hours, he’d score a great victory for street safety.

Indeed. Perhaps he’d best start by privatising the Tube.

1 comment:

dreamingspire said...

Well, they privatised the LU infrastructure and look where it got them: one of the two companies went bust and is now owned by TfL. It has been said that the company that went bust had put in a much too optimistic bid, which a more competent customer would have seen through. But the problem goes deeper than that, for until very recently we have been much too unwilling to close sections of the network or even individual stations for renewal - one needs to look at how Stockholm manages maintenance and renewal before simply asking for 24 hour running of the LU services. But we have also been too slow to adopt new technology to speed up the progress when the workers can move in, and a robust private sector would make progress there.